Covid-19 in Bulgaria – Roundup, April 15: Mass testing to begin, Health Minister says

Written by on April 15, 2020 in Bulgaria - Comments Off on Covid-19 in Bulgaria – Roundup, April 15: Mass testing to begin, Health Minister says

Bulgaria is to begin mass testing of its citizens for new coronavirus, reports on April 15 quoted Health Minister Kiril Ananiev as saying.

So far, tests had been done only on people suspected to have the virus and people who had been in contact with them, Bulgarian National Radio quoted him as saying.

“We have 20 000 PCR tests. That is the direction in which we are heading,” Ananiev said. The government expected that many more supplies and donations from Bulgarian and foreign citizens and organisations would be coming in, he said.

By the late afternoon of April 15, there had been no statement from the Health Ministry on what the scope and extent of the mass testing would be.

Prime Minister Boiko Borissov said that statistics from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control showed that Bulgaria was the least infected. “God wants me to protect you,” he said.

The Cabinet decision ordering supermarket chains to sell foodstuffs from local producers, meant to help the agriculture sector during the Covid-19 pandemic, caused some consternation among retailers, who criticised some aspects of the decree.

Those disagreements appeared to have been settled during a meeting with Agriculture Minister Dessislava Taneva on April 15 to discuss specific financial and logistics issues, after which representatives of retailers said that they were “in agreement” on measures that would make it easier and quicker for local foodstuffs to end up on supermarket shelves.

Taneva and Prime Minister Borissov also held a videoconference call with representatives of several agricultural associations to discuss the Cabinet order. The farmers’ representatives called on the Cabinet to make the decree, which currently is envisioned to cover the period until the end of the year, permanent. Taneva said that the proposal would be analysed by the ministry.

At a regular meeting on April 15, Bulgaria’s Cabinet formally approved the change to its 60:40 employment support scheme, which will now include the government paying 60 per cent of the mandatory social security and health care contributions. Previously, recipients of state aid under that scheme were required to pay the mandatory contributions, split between employers and employees, in full themselves.

The national operational headquarters said in a 5pm update that the number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Bulgaria was 747.

Twelve new cases had been confirmed in the course of the day. Seven were in Smolyan, three in Sofia, and one each in Kyustendil and Bourgas. Results of further laboratory tests are pending.

A total of 218 people are in hospital, 31 of them in intensive care. Thirty-nine medical personnel have tested positive for Covid-19.

Of the total of those who have tested positive, 413 were men and 334 women.

The death toll to date is 36. The average age of those who died was 63.8 years, the operational HQ said.

On April 15, Borissov urged people not to travel out of the district capital cities (Bulgaria’s 27 regional centres) during the Easter holidays. He issued a reminder that the checkpoint system to prevent travel, unless for permitted reasons such as transporting supplies of food and medicines, remained in force.

“Good Friday is a non-working day,” he said. Earlier in the day, operational HQ chief Major-General Ventsislav Mutafchiyski had underlined that people trying to travel would be turned back unless they could prove they were doing so for an officially approved reason, and that would not include, during the Easter public holiday weekend, work.

Sofia municipality announced that mayor Yordanka Fandukova had ordered that sanctions will be imposed on all cleaning companies whose employees do not wear protective masks and gloves while working in the municipality.

The municipal operational headquarters also agreed that the blue and green parking zones in Sofia would remain free-of-charge until April 26.

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